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'Smash' Recap: Episode 8, 'The Bells and Whistles'

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'Smash' Recap: Episode 8, 'The Bells and Whistles'
Photo Source: NBC

This week on a slightly less frenetic episode of "Smash," Karen has some growing pains at "Hit List." Like, the kind of growing pains you have when you want to shag the composer of your show. Ivy is now starring in "Bombshell" as a short, manly-voiced Marilyn, and Tom is directing. Sam, Tom's former squeeze, is taking a break from starring in "The Book of Mormon" -- because being in the most popular show on earth making scads of money is so tedious -- and Jimmy is just doing his usual thing, i.e. dressing like The Fonz and gazing moodily into the camera.

Downtown at "Hit List," Derek and Jimmy are still butting heads over their "creative vision," aka over which of them can get into Karen's pants faster, and trying to solve their latest casting conundrum. This week's challenge: Who will play the show's female nemesis? Enter Ana, Karen's roommate, who stages an impromptu audition for the role while standing on a bar singing a Beyonce song. As one does.

There's another side plot where Julia butts heads -- and almost instantly mends fences with -- Scott, the downtown producer staging "Hit List," but that evaporates so quickly that it hardly leaves a mark. Oh yeah, and then Karen and Jimmy make out on the kitchen table.

The Awesome

Jimmy's Shirt Is Missing Forever
It's hard to knock a show that both begins and ends with a bare-chested, conspicuously waxed Jeremy Jordan. At the top of the show, he's dreaming about canoodling in bed with Karen. At the end, she's wrapping himself around him like a spider on top of her butcher block kitchen table. There are worse things – like everything else on this show.

Leslie Odom Jr. is Back, Singing, Dancing, and Perfect
Playing Tom's handsome ex, actor Leslie Odom Jr. injects some serious, authentic Broadway charm into this episode with a song and dance number that's from Tom's mysteriously never-before-mentioned musical about the Rat Pack. If it starred Leslie and featured him dancing on a piano in at least one song, we'd probably want to see this musical more than "Bombshell."

Daphne Rubin-Vega Is a Goddess
Three cheers for a sensible character who actually seems like a real person. Ten cheers for it being Daphne Rubin-Vega, cutting a heck of a figure in a pencil skirt. Thirty-seven cheers for looking half her age with those razors for cheekbones. We want a spinoff, stat!

Enter, The Sensible Journalist
For a show that likes to pillory theater writers -- columnists, bloggers, everyone --this week "Smash" actually got something right. "Bombshell" just ISN'T a story anymore. The New York Times is right. Now we only wish the writers at "Smash" could figure that out, too.

The Awful

Everybody's Problems Are Solved, Unsolved, and Solved Again... Instantly
Why does "Smash" insist on creating and fixing all kinds of serious problems in a single hour? Julia's 15-year-old conflict with producer Scott is nowhere on the radar until this episode. Tom has never had problems making tough decisions and curbing wily talent until now. Sam is lovely, but there's no clear reason why he should turn up wanting Tom back in this moment. Derek wants huge staging for his little downtown show... until one scene later when he's talked out of it. Maybe someday, we'll live in a world where the characters on "Smash" operate like people and not like characters in The Sims.

Andy Mientus Wears a Kilt... Possibly
Okay, so, upon closer inspection it is not one of Alan Cummings' discarded Scottish skirts. It's just... a plaid shirt, tied around Kyle's waist. Like it's 1994 and we're giving a nod to the crispy Seattle weather. We get it. Greenpoint is a place where it's cool to be uncool. But this is just…After weeks of unflattering knitwear, we're pretty sure the costume department just hates Andy. Which. How is that possible?

Everybody's Still Fighting Over Katherine McPhee
Gee. This show has changed so much since season one, when Derek was fighting Tom – and the world, and the Internet-at-large, and reality – for Karen Cartwright. Oh wait. Now we're just fighting Jimmy. Because Karen is so special. And also she's really just a piece of property for men to use to make their way in the world. Thank god it's 2013.

The Inexplicable

The Ghost of Lea Michele Is Here, and She Is Not Happy About It
We totally get Jimmy's hissy fit over the suggestion that Lea Michele join the cast of "Hit List." We have the same reaction whenever the girl draws breath. What we don't get is why, of all the people who could add "star power," Rachel Berry is anyone's first choice.

Actors Know Everything
We all chuckled a little when Tom willingly asked his "Bombshell" cast for their ideas and feedback on the show. No one – especially not a vet like Tom – would make such an amateur hour mistake. But then, over at "Hit List," Karen continued to have brilliant ideas, including the one wherein Ana simply must audition for the other female lead role. And everyone listened! Too bad Raul Esparza didn't have this much pull in "Leap of Faith," it might have been a better show.

Ana's Big Break
As if it's not confusing enough that Karen Cartwright's character is not the only female diva character in "Hit List," now we've got a whole subplot about how The Roommate wants to audition for Diva 2. This, of course, is capped off in a groundbreaking scene – so unlike "Smash"! – wherein a character does something no one would ever do in the real world, at least not successfully. Nice attempt to audition for Derek like you're an extra from "Coyote Ugly," Roommate – he does like his women to perform for him – but there is no way you'd get a part with that stunt.

The Armpit Lift is The New Black
Lots of directors have a signature. Julie Taymor loves a scene with men marching in exaggerated military dress. Alex Timbers uses the joke that goes on toooooooooooooooooooo long. Derek Wills' signature? The armpit lift and the trust fall. Trust falls just seem so 1998 corporate retreat that it's hard to stand behind their artistic merit. But between how tickle-y, and sweaty/smelly armpits are, we just really don't understand the need for excessive use of armpit lifts. We also really hope no one in the cast uses that Crystal Deodorant that doesn't work.

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